Thursday, September 13, 2012

Butterfly report

I've been keeping an eye on the butterfly population. Although l still think it‘s down overall from previous years, l have seen an uptick. We continue to have loads of the little ones-lots of small fritillaries, white loopers and others and pretty many sulfers.

I've seen only a handful of monarchs, although l was happy to see some caterpillars on the swamp milkweed. We have tons of the wild milkweed out back, so hopefully there are caterpillars feasting there too. Not too many swallowtails, but I have seen more in the past two weeks. l've seen caterpillars on dill, fennel, rue and parsley and saw a black swallowtail laying eggs on the parsley this Week.

The one species I've noticed in abundance is the buckeye. It’s medium-sized, brown with some yellow and orange markings, but very noticeable for the round spots or eyes on the outer edges of its wings. Turns out the caterpillars feed on plantain, verbenas and snaps, all of which we have, so l guess it‘s just a buffet for them.
I noticed a butterfly sitting on zinnias one day (not the one above.) It had its wings folded up, so that l could only see the undersides and I couldn’t figure out what kind it was. Must have been happy, because it sat there awhile. When it finally flew off, I saw it was a painted lady~very pretty. also saw a brown little one that l had to look up. Turned out to he a Northern Cloudywing. Not very showy, but l like the name.

The painted lady was sitting in a patch of pink profusion zinnias and boy, are they spectacular this year. Plenty of rain made for lush growth and plenty of sun means loads of flowers. The colors~cherry pink, orange and deep apricot are all so rich and the white is bright and clear. They bloom constantly and require very little deadheading.  And never a lick of mildew on them since l've grown them. l always give them the most bang for your buck award. I love the tall old~fashioned zinnias with their wide color range, but no matter how I site them they always seem to develop mildew.

l‘m reducing large harvests on woody-stemmed perennials like thyme, sage and rosemary to allow plenty of foliage to remain for winter protection. Can still harvest and use-just don't cut back the whole plant or cut back really hard.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I've been watching a pair of goldfinches who are coming daily to feast on the seeds of purple coneflower. We have two big stands of purple coneflower, or echinacea, and a smaller patch of the white. l notice the birds most in the patch in front of the greenhouse, although they also visit the medicinal meandering garden.  I never cut coneflowers back in the fall, leaving the seedheads for the birds is the winter, but the way these two are going at it, there may not be any left this winter.

I was sitting outside one day and l noticed a beautiful combo in the four~square garden. The tall white garlic chive flowers were in full bloom and behind them, in the background, was the intensely purple foliage of ‘Red Rubin* basil. Also, in the picture were the bright yellow and orange blossoms of calendula.  Just a lovely combination!  Speaking of garlic chives, the bees are absolutely delirious over the flowers-they were loaded with bees yesterday. My practice is always to let the bees work the flowers till they're satisfied and then out them back. Because garlic chives reseed so prolifically, l cut them back when the seed heads are still green, hopefully eliminating reseeding. Although I just found another bit that popped up somewhere they didn't belong, so l must be even more ruthless.

I’m noticing an effect of the extremely high temperatures in July.  Many plants will not set buds when temps get high (usually above 85 or 90 degrees). So late-bloomers are definitely being delayed.  Hyacinth bean vine is just blooming now, so the bean crop will be down. I‘ve seen only one flower on nina or firecracker vine, also an annual vine with sprays of yellow, orange and red flowers.  Then I went looking at the late sages. 1've seen only a few small buds forming on both the mexican bush sage with fuzzy purple flowers and pineapple sage with red tubular blooms, Hopefully,  we'll have a late frost season and still get to enjoy these late season beauties.

The greenhouse and herb shop remain open 5 days a week~Tuesday-Saturday 9-5. Many people think we shut down after the plant sale.
Not so!